Gedempte Chicken (Braised Chicken)
This recipe is very near and dear to my heart. It is based on my grandmother’s recipe for gedempte chicken – a Jewish chicken dish where the meat is literally falling off the bone.
This is one dish that I requested constantly growing up. My grandmother used to brown the chicken in a pan on the stove, then transfer it into a pressure cooker, and then transfer it again into a baking dish to finish it in the oven (usually the next day). It always tasted better on the second day!
I took the dish with me when I went to college. I didn’t have a pressure cooker (and was actually scared of them at the time!), so I had modified the dish to work in my slow cooker. Usually, I (and usually my roommates) ate it straight from the slow cooker. Because who could resist those lovely aromas after smelling them in the slow cooker all day long? Now, I usually will transfer the chicken to another baking dish and place it underneath the broiler until the skin is crispy.
Today, I’m not scared of pressure cookers anymore. But I haven’t quite gotten back to making this according to my grandmother’s methods. In addition to adapting the recipe for the slow cooker, I have also turned this into a one-pot meal that starts on the stove and finishes in the oven. I’ll include suggestions for both here, but all the images are from the one-pot method.
And to note before we start, there are parts of this particular recipe that are traditional such as bone-in and skin-on (both very important) chicken that has been very simply seasoned (salt, pepper, paprika), lots of onions, and a long cook time. In fact, “gedempte” is Yiddish for “well-cooked.” But don’t let that word fool you, this chicken is deliciously tender.
The less traditional parts of this recipe I picked up from tips from my grandmother such as the inclusion of some white wine along with some additional savory ingredients such as carrots and mushrooms. I also remember my grandmother adding those powdered chicken noodle soup packets. Remember those? Personally, I can’t stand mushrooms so I stick with building my flavors with onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Feel free to add the mushrooms if you’d like. Another favorite addition that has been added is matzo balls (YES!). I can’t remember if it was my grandmother or mom who began adding them. I didn’t include them in this recipe, but if you have some, by all means, toss them in!
Alright, let’s get to cooking! You start with bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. My preferences are thighs and drumsticks. Sometimes I use a whole chicken that I break down into 8 pieces (thighs, drumsticks, and each breast cut in half, saving the wings for another use). To season the chicken, all you need is salt, pepper, and sweet paprika. The base is made with 2 large onions, a pound of carrots, a few stalks of celery, and a whole head of garlic.
This is best served with a starch that will soak up all those juices. Rice, egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or latkes are my usual go-to sides.
Stovetop and Oven Method
To keep this a one-pot/pan dish, use a large cast iron pot, pan, or dutch oven or other stove-to-oven dish. Make sure that all the chicken pieces can be put into a single layer. Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Then place the chicken pieces skin-side down in the cold pan and turn the heat on to medium to medium-high. You may have to work in 2 or 3 batches so the chicken isn’t crowded in the pan, which would cause it to steam instead of brown.
Cook on the skin side for about 10 or so minutes, until the skin is rendered (you’ll see the fat or “schmaltz” at the bottom of the pan, no additional oil needed!). Flip and cook for about 3 minutes on the other side. Remove and set aside and continue until all the chicken is seared on the outside.
While the skin is rendering, thinly slice those onions and celery, cut the carrots into large chunks, and smash the garlic cloves (or nicely slice them if you have the patience). Don’t throw out that schmaltz when the chicken is done! That’s bonus flavor right there. Add the onions to the schmaltz along with some wine and chicken stock and cook down for about 10 minutes. Most of the liquid will have evaporated leaving additional concentrated flavors. Then, add the carrots, celery, and garlic.
Cook for another 3 – 4 minutes and then gently place the chicken on top, skin-side up. Add enough chicken broth to just about cover the vegetables but not the chicken.
Pop into a 300 degree oven for about 2 – 2.5 hours uncovered until the chicken is super tender. Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 – 15 minutes before diving in. Mmm, doesn’t that look delicious? I’m getting hungry just looking at these pictures!
The slow cooker version of this recipe was designed around doing as little work as possible while still getting deliciously succulent and tender chicken at the end with crispy skin.
Step one: put everything into the slow cooker at once, layering the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic on the bottom. Place the chicken skin-side up in a single layer on top. Add enough liquid (chicken broth with a bit of wine) to just cover the vegetables. Put the lid on and cook on low for about 7 hours (adjust to your slow cooker – the one I had in college cooked more slowly but the one I have now cooks more quickly).
When ready, transfer to a broiler proof dish (or an oven proof dish and place a little lower in the oven). If serving right away, place under the broiler for about 4 – 5 minutes until the skin is crispy. If not serving until the following day, cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place into the refrigerator when cooled. When you are ready to start prepping for dinner, remove the foil and place into a 350 degree oven until warmed through (about 25 – 30 minutes) and then turn on the broiler for about 4 – 5 minutes to crisp up the skin.
Gedempte Chicken (Braised Chicken)
- 4 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (I recomend thighs and/or drumsticks)
- 2 large onions or 3 small onions
- 1 lb carrots (I like the thicker carrots so they keep their shape and don't get overly mushy)
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 head garlic (or about 6–7 large cloves)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- ½ cup white wine (optional, replace with broth if you'd like)
- 3½ – 4 cups chicken broth, separated
Stove and Oven Method
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Thinly slice the onions and the celery. Peel and smash the garlic cloves. Cut the carrots into thick chunks. Toss the chicken with the salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Place the chicken skin-side down in a cold cast iron pan or other oven-safe pan that is wide enough for all the chicken to sit in a single layer. You may have to work in batches to make sure there is enough space between the chicken pieces so that it browns and not steams. Turn the heat under the pan on to medium to medium-high and allow the chicken skin to render for about 10 minutes. Flip the chicken and sear for about 2 – 3 minutes on the other side. Move to a plate and set aside. Keep the schmaltz (the rendered chicken fat) in the pan. Repeat with the remaining batches.
- Stir the onions into the schmaltz and add the white wine and ½ cup of chicken broth. Cook down for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.
- Place the chicken skin-side up on top of the vegetables. Add enough liquid to just cover the vegetables underneath the chicken (I needed about 3 cups).
- Move the whole pan to the oven and cook uncovered for about 2 – 2.5 hours. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 – 15 minutes.
Slow Cooker Method
- Thinly slice the onions and the celery. Peel and smash the garlic cloves. Cut the carrots into thick chunks. Toss the chicken with the salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Layer the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the chicken skin-side up in a single layer in the slow cooker. Add the wine and just enough chicken broth to cover the vegetables but not the chicken.
- Cover and cook on low for about 7 hours. Adjust the time to your slow cooker – I've had some that cook more slowly and some that cook more quickly.
- Transfer the chicken and vegetables, keeping the chicken on top, to a broiler-proof dish. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes until the chicken skin is crispy.